IC Insights: Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron occupy 94% of DRAM market share in 2021

IC Insights excerpted from the "McLean Report" said that over the past 30 years, the DRAM market has been characterized by periods of astonishing growth and devastating years of collapse. In recent years, the DRAM market fell 37% in 2019 but surged 42% in 2021. Whatever the reason, the "boom and bust" cycle has brought the number of major DRAM suppliers down from 20 in the mid-1990s to 6 today. In 2021, the three largest suppliers, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron, will have a combined 94% DRAM market share. South Korea-based Samsung and SK Hynix accounted for 71.3% of global DRAM sales last year.

With a 44% market share, Samsung will remain the world's largest DRAM supplier in 2021, with sales reaching nearly $41.9 billion, the report said . Last year, Samsung advanced its DRAM business on several fronts, including starting mass production of EUV-based 14nm DRAM in October 2021 after pioneering the use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography in March 2020. In the process, Samsung increased the number of EUV layers on its state-of-the-art 14nm DDR5 from two to five-layer DRAM processes.

In November 2021, Samsung said that it has applied EUV technology to develop 14nm 16Gb low-power double data rate 5X (LPDDR5X) DRAM specifically for 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other big data Terminal applications and other high-speed applications. The company claims that LPDDR5X DRAM can process data at speeds of up to 8.5Gbps (1.3 times faster than existing 6.4Gbps LPDDR5 devices), saving about 20 percent power consumption over LPDDR5 memory. In addition, the company announced its first DRAM memory modules to support the new Compute Express Link (CXL) interconnect standard, as well as 2GB GDDR6 and 2GB designed for autonomous electric vehicles and high-performance infotainment systems DDR4 automotive DRAM.

SK Hynix ranked second with a 28% DRAM market share in 2021, with sales of $26.6 billion, an increase of 39%. DRAM accounts for about 71% of the company's total semiconductor sales in 2021, and the specific market performances are: server DRAM accounts for 40%; mobile DRAM accounts for 35%; PC DRAM accounts for 15%; consumer and graphics card DRAM account for 5% each. In 2021, SK hynix released what it claims is the industry's highest-performance DDR5 DRAM, with data speeds capable of transferring 163 Full HD movies per second. The chip is called HBM3 because it is Hynix's third-generation high-bandwidth memory. Like Samsung, SK Hynix has also started using EUV lithography in mass production of 8Gb LPDDR4 DRAM based on the 4th generation 10nm process (1a nm).

In addition, Micron is the third largest DRAM supplier in 2021, with DRAM sales rising 41% to $21.9 billion, accounting for 23% of the global market share. Overall, DRAM accounted for about 73% of Micron's $30 billion in total IC sales for the year. In 2021, Micron launched a 1a nm memory node. The node, powered by a new CPU platform and designed in part to support the data center transition to DDR5 DRAM, is expected to begin development later this year and gain momentum in 2023. Micron's 1a nm DRAMs are also being used in low-power communications applications, including 5G smartphones. Although the process does not require EUV lithography, Micron has ordered EUV equipment and plans to use its 1 gamma (1 gamma) nanometer node to transition to EUV technology to produce DRAM starting in 2024.

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